Archive for October 1st, 2008

by jhwygirl

Last time I looked, back on September 17th, the count was 55.

Looks like the McCain/Palin ticket has been busy, busy, busy….

That’s what? 25 new lies in 15 days? 1.67 lies per day…
33 days until the election….that could mean 55 more lies by then.

Yep. Good thing they’ve got space for 3-digit numbers.

Vote accordingly, folks.

by Pete Talbot

(Update: Sen. Tester votes no, Sen. Baucus votes yes on $700 billion bailout. Bill passes 74-25.)

I’m confused but I guess I’m not alone. Congressional leadership and both presidential candidates say we need the bailout and we need it now. So what happens if the bailout doesn’t pass? A run on the banks? The collapse of the stock market? Another Great Depression?

Slightly over half of the U.S. House doesn’t seem to be in a rush, though. And concerns come from both sides of the aisle. Can the U.S. economy continue to limp along while a better bill is drafted?

Perhaps we’ll never know, as it looks like the Senate is poised to do what the House couldn’t — pass the $700 billion bailout. Leadership will then have to convince the House to do the same.

It was mostly conservative Republican congressmen who said no to the deal being advanced by the administration and Treasury Secretary Paulson (140 Democrats voted “yea” and 95 voted “nay” — Republicans: 65 “yea” and 133 “nay”).

These are strange times.

On this issue, President George W. Bush is now a moderate, in the same league as our own Montana Sen. Baucus, and Senators Obama, McCain, Reid and Clinton.

Then there’s Denny Rehberg. Montana’s congressman voted “no” on the House bailout plan — the same bailout that’s the bane of left-wing bloggers like Jay, Rebecca and Shane, and many of the right-wing bloggers, too. Here’s Denny’s reasoning:

“Are we asking the general taxpayer to solve an issue that was created by someone else?” Rehberg, Montana’s lone congressman, asked in a conference call with reporters. “I looked at the legislation; I came to the conclusion ‘yes’.”

Christ, is he saying that Wall Street needs to be accountable for its actions? Why, he sounds almost progressive, or at least populist. We’ll have to wait and see how Rehberg votes on the Senate version of the bill.

Republicans seem most confused about what to do. Their Commander-in-Chief and their presidential hopeful can’t rally the troops.

The Democrats, at least, are more united, although Democrats in the House may balk at the Senate’s version which, at this time, extends numerous business tax breaks and doesn’t offer much oversight.

The Senate bill is still a work in progress. One hopes that Senators Obama and McCain, and our own Senators Baucus and Tester, pass a bill that is more than a bailout. To quote Tester, the bill needs “more common sense regulation” and a provision banning golden parachutes. Right on, Jon.

Baucus is using some tough-sounding rhetoric like, “a lot of greedy people made some big mistakes” and he refers to “Wall Street fat cats.” But he also says that he favors stabilizing the situation “right away” and working on the regulatory aspect of the industry at a later date.

It’s obvious that the voting public isn’t happy, which is why the House didn’t pass the bailout bill on Monday. Every member is up for re-election this year.

So now it’s the Senate’s turn to weigh in. Then it’s back to the House. Compromises will have to be made or nothing will pass. It remains to be seen if these new versions of the bill will favor Wall Street or Main Street.

by jhwygirl

Today the Missoula County Commissioners will once again discuss a 69-lot subdivision next to the Clark Fork River. That’s about all I can know about it, except that it is continued from September 17th. Don’t know the issues – hell, I don’t even know the legal description of the property.

The Board of County Commissioners are apparently also going to purchase some land from the Frey Family. Hmmm…wonder where? How much of our tax dollars are they going to spend? Did they appraise the property? Do we need a bigger shop? Why do we need a bigger shop? How much is this new shop going to cost? Or are we just helping out the Frey family in getting rid of some land next to our existing county shop? Did they have it inspected? Is it a toxic waste dump?


AND, the Board of County Commissioners are also going to sell a building setback easement at 439 W. Spruce. I also wonder with this one how much they’re selling it for? How much land, exactly, are they selling? WHAT are they selling? Are they getting rid of public right-of-way? SHOULD they be getting rid of public-right-of-way? Why are they doing this? Why can’t the purchaser just meet the required setback? Did they appraise it? Is this in the city? Did they talk to the city to see if they approve?


Half of these questions may be irrelevant. Hell, I don’t know because there is no information out there.

There’s no excuse for this. It’s 2008.

Unless, of course, they don’t want you to know about the 69-lot subdivision on the Clark Fork, the property they’re selling, the property that their buying, etc.

And how ‘BOUT those Steelers?!

by jhwygirl

Problembear does an important piece of journalistic work, putting a real local family to the face of foreclosure in Missoula.

Think it isn’t happening here? There are 21 foreclosures a month here in Missoula.

In August, Flathead County had 200 homes in the foreclosure process. (note the headline on that article, that also tells us that Flathead has a 5-year supply of developed lots and a 24-month supply of resales.)

Billings’ rate of foreclosure was .4 percent for the month of June. For comparison, Missoula’s percentage rate was .38. (note how the article makes it sound peachy-keen: “Foreclosure activity in Billings is lower than the national foreclosure rate which was 1.6 percent for June 2008, representing a 1.2 percentage point difference.”) lets you put in a zip code and see what is happening in that area. It’s specific to that zip code, so you can’t move around the map too far – you have to enter another zip code (i.e.,59801, 59804, etc.)

by jhwygirl

These Public Service Commission races often go overlooked. Few elected offices can have such a direct impact, daily, on your life and your pocketbook than the people up in Helena who are hearing requests from utility companies for rate hikes and such. Maybe it’s time to pay attention. Brad Molnar is running for Public Service Commissioner for District 2, which is out near Billings. He is running against Ron Tussing, who has been endorsed by both the Montana Conservation Voters and The Progressive Democrats of Montana. Both Jay and I have written about Brad Molnar previously, here and here.

Perhaps the better question is: How (at the very least) ethically-challenged can Brad Molnar, incumbent and candidate for Public Service Commission District 2, be?

The guy is a sitting Public Service Commissioner, and he solicits donations from both Northwestern Energy and PPL Montana (two donations of $1,000 from Northwestern and one $1,000 donation from PPL Montana). He solicits donations from corporations over which he is elected to oversee?


MCA 45-7-104 has been on the books for how long? But seriously, does Molnar really need to be told that as an public servant he shouldn’t be soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to accept any pecuniary benefit from a person known to be subject to such regulation, inspection, investigation, or custody or against whom such litigation is known to be pending or contemplated?

Or how about MCA 2-2-104, which prohibits a public officer, legislator, or public employee from accepting a gift of substantial value or a substantial economic benefit tantamount to a gift? A gift that that would tend improperly to influence a reasonable person in the person’s position to depart from the faithful and impartial discharge of the person’s public duties?

Oh – and the state does give us a definition of “gift” in MCA 2-2-102:
“Gift of substantial value” means a gift with a value of $50 or more for an individual.
(b) The term does not include:
(i) a gift that is not used and that, within 30 days after receipt, is returned to the donor or delivered to a charitable organization or the state and that is not claimed as a charitable contribution for federal income tax purposes;

So did Molnar return his gifts within 30 days? Only one of Northwestern Energy’s $1,000 gifts were returned within 30 days – the other had been long spent – and was returned only after Northwestern Energy had requested it be returned. As for PPL Montana’s $1,000 gift? Doesn’t look like it – but they did ask Molnar to quit using the materials. He has, of course, refused to do so.

Molnar apparently never saw a problem with either donation – in this letter to Commissioner Unsworth (of the state’s Political Practices), he defends himself by saying he’s returned only the $1,000 from Northwestern Energy.

You know – this stuff is pretty darned basic. He’s an elected official. He regulates over utilities. He oversees both Northwestern Energy and PPL Montana. He reviews and votes on rate hikes that both of these businesses request to have imposed on the citizens of Montana.

You simply don’t solicit donations from utility companies and spend them when you are a Montana Public Service Commission elected commissioner – or someone running for the office.

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